Desert Isle Keeper
The Summer Country
The Summer Country is the latest standalone historical novel from author Lauren Willig. It’s a dual timeline story that takes place in Barbados, and I’m pleased to report it’s everything I’ve come to expect from this author, and then some.
Emily Dawson has always been the poor relation in the eyes of her family. Her grandfather was a prosperous merchant, but Emily, the daughter of a vicar, isn’t at all used to the finer things in life. So when her grandfather dies suddenly, no one is more surprised than Emily herself to learn that he left her a sugar plantation in Barbados. Emily has never stepped a foot off English soil, but she agrees to accompany her cousin Adam, who also happens to be the heir to the rest of the family fortune, to Barbados to get a look at her inheritance and decide what to do with it.
When Emily, Adam, and Adam’s new wife reach Barbados, they discover Peverills, the plantation Emily has inherited, is in ruins, having been ravaged by fire some forty years earlier. Emily is stunned and confused. Why would her grandfather left her this burned out shell, and why did he keep his ownership of this particular piece a land a secret until his death? To further complicate matters, there are several other landowners in the area who would love to get their hands on Peverills, but Emily is determined not to make any long-term decisions about the fate of the land until she unravels the secrets she’s sure her grandfather took to his grave.
The story moves back and forth in time between 1854 and 1812. I can’t tell you much about the 1812 storyline since it would spoil things for you, but I do want to tell you that both timelines are equally fascinating. Some authors have trouble keeping readers invested in multiple time periods, but Ms. Willig manages to imbue both stories with enough intrigue, romance, and historical detail to keep readers completely enthralled.
Speaking of romance, I want to make it clear that this novel is first and foremost historical fiction, but both timelines contain strong romantic elements, making it a book that will appeal to fans of the author’s previous works. Emily’s love interest ended up being one of my favorite characters. He’s dark and brooding, but not in a way that makes him unkind. He has a wonderfully prickly exterior that hides a heart of gold, and I loved watching him and Emily give into their feelings for one another.
Emily herself is exactly the kind of heroine I love. She’s not afraid of hard work, and she’s also more than willing to admit when she doesn’t know something. I wasn’t sure how she’d cope with life on Barbados, where things are so vastly different from what she was accustomed to, but she took everything in her stride and did her best to learn what she would need to know in order to fit in.
At nearly five-hundred pages, The Summer Country may seem intimidating to some readers, but please don’t let its size put you off. The pacing is wonderful and I found myself flying through the story, both eager to reach the end and unwilling to say goodbye to these characters at the same time. It’s an odd dichotomy that doesn’t occur very often, but for me, it’s the mark of a truly fantastic book.
If you love large, sprawling novels rich with enough historical detail to make the setting itself feel like a character in the story, you won’t want to miss The Summer Country. It’s one of my favorite books of 2019, and I can’t wait for the rest of the world to embrace it the way I have.